We honeymooned in Florence in the 1980s and had a wonderful time enjoying each other’s company and the sights and sounds of an amazing city. It was one of our first city breaks and we were amazed just how expensive eating out was. When I got back I mentioned this to an Italian friend who reeled off a load of tips for eating out just off the beaten track – better quality and cheaper price…for those in the know. Avoid the tourist traps he said.
Since then, in true Yorkshire tradition, I’ve always thought twice about the obvious places to eat and enjoyed seeking out the little gems one or two blocks back from the sights that serve fantastic food. The same rule applies around the world and why wouldn’t it? The sites closest to the tourist attractions will have the highest property costs and the highest footfall so they need to serve high margin food fast – can you blame them? A seafront property can only have so many tables overlooking the sea and so they charge a premium in line with demand. Of course eating out is not just about the food – the experience is just as important. Dear old Michael Winner said that he booked a table not a meal. If the table he wanted was not available he would go and eat elsewhere. For a special occasion it adds something to the event.
On our recent trip to Northern Spain we stopped in the beautiful little bay of Tamariu which is so small that all it has are seafront restaurants with just a handful of backstreet bars and cafes. It was a good chance to test the theory. On the first night it seemed to hold. We had a pretty average meal at La Morera. I’m not an expert on paella but what we had seemed pretty ‘muddy’ and quite scant in the marinera department – one slim langoustine, some cubes of squid and two mussels apiece. Admittedly the rice was tasty but that’s really not enough. The tapas were sizeable and pretty OK but nothing extraordinary.
Night two we’d had a tip to try the Hotel Tamariu set meal – three courses, drinks and coffee for €25 in their restaurant El Clot dels Mussols. Same views as the night before, just a little further along the shore. The menu was fairly limited as you would expect with three choices for each course. It’s odd how some limited choice menus offer lots of things you want to try whereas others with bigger ranges just don’t appeal. Thankfully we all managed to find things we’d like. I started with a fabulously simple tuna carpaccio. The tuna was marinated in soy sauce and sesame seeds. The tuna was in
cubes rather than slices. The fish was served with a light salad of cabbage, bean sprouts and diced cucumber with a light fruity dressing. It was superb. I loved the simplicity and freshness – not what I was expecting.
The main I chose was Iberico pork served with potatoes and a light, loose, red chimichurri sauce – a slightly spiced salsa. The pork was superb with beautifully rendered fat and served just slightly pink. With the slight bite of the sauce and well-seasoned potatoes it was a good plate of food.
I had pears in wine for my dessert. I’m not a massive fan but I love the idea. I have never had a poached pear that I liked. Sometimes the pear isn’t tasty enough to stand up to scrutiny in the first place. Then the cook takes over and it is too hard through either being unripe or undercooked, or the sauce just doesn’t complement the fruit. I still haven’t found the right version or maybe it’s just not for me. These pears were just cooked to perfection in a red wine sauce. There was a nice hint of vanilla but I just want some bigger flavour.
We had a bottle of house rose, a bottle of mineral water and four coffees and the bill came to €100, just slightly more than the night before. I’d happily eat there again regardless of the location. Maybe being part of a hotel means there are guests as well as tourists to satisfy and that just gives it the edge.